Stevens: Williams Nets 46 As Lobos Shoot Down Rams 91-82

Feb. 23, 2013

New Mexico Lobos Men's Basketball -Mountain West - At Colorado State

Saturday: New Mexico 91, Colorado State 82

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It wasn't really fair. In a way, it was cruel. The Colorado State Rams threw up one of their best offensive games of - well, maybe ever - and Kendall Williams decided to play the game at an NBA level. And maybe play his best game ever.

He was Lebron James, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant rolled into a special Lobo that the Rams absolutely had no answer for. And the Rams tried. They tried really hard and sometimes there was simply no way Williams was going to make a trey over the hands in his face.

But he made them - again and again and again - to total 46 points and pace UNM to an amazing 91-82 Mountain West win over CSU Saturday in Fort Collins.

It was amazing because the Rams played extremely well - and probably good enough to beat almost any team in the nation as long as Kendall Williams wasn't playing on that team on this day.

As they say, Williams was unconscious. He played with Jordan's will to win. He hit jumpers like Kobe. And like Lebron, he was simply too good for the competition.

"He was at a different level in this game," said Lobo Coach Steve Alford.

The win threw the Lobos into a fat two-game lead with four to go. The win snapped CSU's 27-game Moby Arena win streak. The win came against a Top 25 team playing on its home court for first place in the Mountain - and featuring five senior starters.

And the Lobos found a way.

It's impossible to relate how vital Williams was to this win. Well, maybe it's not. Just toss out his numbers: 46 points, 12-of-16 from the field, 10-of-13 from 3-point range, 4 assists, 5 boards. "For him to have a game like that, it was a lot of fun to watch," said Alford. "He got in the groove and you have to get his teammates credit. They got him the ball.

"I think Colorado State played well. I think they gave us good shot after good shot. Our guys just understand the last five minutes. They have a championship demeanor to them. We really had a good run in the last six minutes."

The Lobos were down 70-64 with 6:02 to play when Alford called time. It was a productive huddle. Williams was on the bench nursing his fourth foul, but Alford decided to reinsert the hot hand. UNM went on an 11-0 run to grab a 75-70 lead.

Williams continued to play at an unconscious level, hitting two long treys to fuel that 11-0 run. His second trey appeared to be forced off the baseline over good pressure. It rattled in.

William's backdoor cut and dunk handed UNM an 80-74 lead that the Lobos carried into the final minute and carried to their 23rd win of the season. UNM is 23-4 and 10-2. The Rams fall to 21-6 and 8-4 - deep into second place in the MW race.

The Lobos play host to San Diego State Wednesday in The Pit.

"This is going to be a fun two weeks," Alford said referring to UNM's final four games of the MW regular season. "Our Pit crowd should have a lot of fun with this (SDSU's visit). Our guys are driven. They are motivated."

Sometimes it's difficult to explain how these amazing Lobos find their way to victory on this rugged Mountain West road. This one you can explain: Kendall Williams. The Lobos fed off his plate and his jumper.

You also give a whole lot of credit to 7-foot Alex Kirk, who muscled and hammered with the Rams' inside brawlers and added 19 points and 10 boards.

And, yeah, the UNM defense got better in the second half. CSU shot 51.7 percent in the first half and 34.1 percent in the second half.

"We challenged our team defensively at halftime," said Alford. "We did a lot of good things defensively. And CSU is a very good defensive team and we come in here and score 91. The guys did a lot of good things."

The Lobos' did intensify their defense in the second 20 minutes, however, that might not have been an issue if Williams had just come out and played his usual game. As one of the game announcers said, Williams "transcended" his normal statistics. Williams came into the game averaging 13.7 points. His play seemed to sap CSU's belief that they could beat these Lobos.

"I don't know if we saw 46 coming," said Alford. "We are who we are. We just fought like crazy. I have to give the guys credit. They just played so hard and so well.

"There was a lot of talent on the floor and guys made shots. It's not like they left Kendall open."

The Rams got a monster game inside from Colton Iverson, who had 26 points and 15 boards. CSU outrebounded UNM 42-to-33. They had 20 offensive boards to eight for the Lobos and CSU had 26 second-chance points to five for the Lobos.

CSU lost the free-throw battle going 16-of-23 to 25-of-33 for UNM, but the Lobos' line edge was helped by CSU fouling down the stretch.

The Rams got 22 points from Wes Eikmeier and 20 from Dorian Green. Pierce Hornung had 10 boards. UNM got four points off the bench, all from Chad Adams.

The Lobos shot 53.8 percent in the first half and 52.0 percent in the second half. They went 12-of-23 from behind the line (52.2 percent) with Williams making 10 of those bombs. CSU stayed even with UNM in turnovers at nine apiece.

Really, the Rams probably did enough to win, but they could not stop Williams.

"For him to have a game like that, it was a lot of fun to watch," said Alford, who said his career high in college was 42 points and his high from 3-point range was eight. "He'll remember this for a long, long time."

So will Lobo fans - and so will Colorado State.

Second Half: New Mexico 53, Colorado State 41

Maybe there was talk about defense in both the UNM and CSU locker rooms, but when teams and individuals are hot, they are hot. Williams continued to hit for UNM and Eikmeier warmed up for CSU. At the 15:41 break, CSU was up 55-50.

The Rams' Green hauled down a rebound and went coast-to-coast with a spin finish and CSU was up 57-50. The Lobos could not allow the Rams to drift away. Williams, of course, threw in a bomb: 57-53. At the 10:43 break, UNM was down three: 61-58. Snell scored a baseline jumper and then got fouled on a drive at 9:30 and left the line with UNM up 62-61.

The game took a bad shift for UNM at the 9:01 mark. Williams picked up his fourth foul, went to the bench, and Eikmeier hit two at the line: 63-62. When Iverson missed inside, muscled for the board, and forced in a shot over Kirk, Alford called time at 8:01. His Lobos were down 66-62 with Williams on the bench. It was 21-to-3 on second-chance points in CSU's favor at that mark in the game.

The Rams stayed up. Alford called time at 6:02, down 70-64. It was a productive huddle. Williams was reinserted into the lineup and UNM went on an 11-0 run to grab a 75-70 lead. Williams continued to play at an unconscious level, hitting two long treys to fuel that 11-0 run.

The Rams hung around for a while, but you could tell the shooting of Williams - and the UNM defense - had worn down CSU's confidence. The Lobos surged to the 91-82 final, outscoring CSU 27-to-12 down the stretch.

First Half: Colorado State 41, New Mexico 38

The Rams definitely knew what they had to talk about at the half. What to do about Kendall Williams? The rocket-fast Lobo did just about whatever he wanted to do in the first half scoring 20 points and opening up space for other Lobos.

The Lobos' last two points of the half came off a Williams' drive that forced CSU to leave Chad Adams alone under the hoop. Williams wrapped a pass around the Rams' defense and Adams hit the layup. UNM also got the ball on that possession off Williams' defense that forced a backcourt violation by CSU.

The Lobos and the Rams came into the contest boasting two of the tougher defenses in the league, but the first 20 minutes was more an offensive battle than a defensive battle. The teams took turns throwing out little spurts and scratching into little leads. UNM was up 21-20 at 10:14 on two free throws by Snell. CSU used a turnover and a layup to go up 24-21 at 9:13 and UNM called for a quick team huddle.

Williams threw up a long trey past the top of the key to form a 24-24 tie. At the 7:34 break, CSU was up 26-24 on a Dorian Green jumper.

Williams hit his third trey to hand UNM a 29-26 lead and came back with a single free throw to make it 30-28 off his 16th point of the half. At the 3:36 break, CSU was up 35-32 off a Green trey, followed by a Kirk dunk, followed by a layup by Eikmeier.

CSU had a 41-35 lead in the final minute before UNM cut that gap to 41-38.